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Projects for Under-served Communities

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Summer 2014 teams are currently fundraising. Find out how you can be involved with the following projects:

Stadium seating for a school in Costa Rica

Community center in Nicaragua

Water harvesting system in Tanzania

PUC 2014-15 Application Now Open

The application for PUC 2014-2015 is now open. All applications are due by March 1.  Get a sneak preview of the application and then apply online! Hard copies of the application will not be accepted.

About Projects for Under-served Communities

In a unique collaboration between the Cockrell School of Engineering and the International Office, Projects for Under-served Communities is an innovative year long course sequence at The University of Texas at Austin where students bring their passion and practical skills together to complete projects in communities abroad.

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Janet Ellzey, Vice Provost for International Programs and Mechanical Engineering professor, and James O'Connor, C. T. Wells professor in Project Management, created the course to help students develop their engineering and leadership skills while providing much-needed services to communities throughout the world.  PUC uses a multidisciplinary curriculum designed to teach project management skills and develop the cross-cultural communication competencies that are essential to working in a global environment. "It is important for engineers to gain real-world experience in countries where they will be working for international companies," Ellzey says. "The students are committed to building relationships with communities who need their technical expertise. Working together, they will be able to create meaningful solutions that will provide relief to people who face serious challenges."

In consultation with faculty and industry mentors and through formal instruction, students are responsible for all components of each project.  They work on project development and design with community partners, lead fundraising efforts, organize logistics, and create budgets. During the summer, students will travel to the approved project sites to implement their projects and see the direct impact their project based academic work will have on the lives of others.

Social Work students play an integral role in the program, leading the teams in cross-cultural communication and awareness, community engagement, and community impact evaluations.  Social work students work under the guidance of Dorie Gilbert, Professor of Social Work, who joined the PUC team in 2010. The complimentary skill sets of social work professionals and engineers create a well-balanced team that can tackle the challenge of sustainable development projects.  

Student Impact

During its pilot year, PUC earned a 2010 International Award for Innovative Practices in Higher Education from the University Design Consortium at Arizona State University.

"The course showed me the immense need around the world for better infrastructure, for improving the supply and quality of water, and for working with governments and organizations in harmony to serve our communities," Rosaura Estrada, a civil engineering senior who served as the communications lead for the Peru team says. "This experience has motivated me to continue working towards my degree in civil engineering so that I can make a contribution to fix those needs."

“There was such great joy in using what I have learned at UT to serve the people of Kenyasi,” says biomedical engineering student Elizabeth Roensch, who participated in the Ghana Latrine Project in 2013.  “It is so easy to get caught up in the craziness of college, but seeing my work as an engineering student benefit a much deserving community made everything worthwhile.  Our team will never forget the welcoming hugs, beautiful dancing and joyous laughter we experienced in Ghana."

Community Impact

Each year, PUC brings new project possibilities and each project impacts the numerous stakeholders directly. Read more about current and past years’ projects and the impact PUC is having on communities.